I had my first visit with Dr. Sanders, a Radiation Oncologist, on Thursday. James and I spent over an hour with him peppering him with questions about the risks of radiation, the methods, and whether or not I would see enough benefit to even undertake the schedule-defying therapy. I had read pros and cons of radiation therapy and had concerns. I really was interested in this new method where they implant a device and set one up with doses over about a week, and then you're done. That sounded like a better option to me compared with daily trips over 6 to 7 weeks. Dr. Sanders was patient and answered every question we had. Unfortunately, the implant device was not suitable for me since the placement of the device would be too close to the surface of my skin and could risk seriously damaging it. If he lowered the dose so keep the skin safe, then the benefits of radiation would be almost nil - not even worth doing.
Radiation therapy reduces my risk of cancer recurrence from residual cells that may be lurking - down to about 5%. Without radiation therapy my risk of some rogue cells that may be lingering, goes up to around 20%. We weren't willing to take a 20% chance of recurrence, so we are opting to go ahead with radiation. My next step was a CT scan of the site so they can properly map out the location. I got marked with ink and taped with little bee-bee's, dotted with two tiny tattoo's, and then scanned. The doctor then prepares a radiation dosage plan which I will start on Monday October 26Th. I go every single day with the exception of weekends and holidays, for 33 sessions. I should finish around mid-December.
This is going to be troublesome with my work schedule. Thankfully my manager will work with me. On the days I work from home, I am freer in when I can go. The days I work in Renton (Tues & Thurs) are much trickier. Turns out they offer radiation only from 7:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) I did launch my complaint that they should be open longer hours to help accommodate those of us who need to continue to work through the therapy. Ah well. I'll just have to do the best I can.
I have been fully warned of what to expect: sunburn-like symptoms on the site, and fatigue. I would imagine I'll also become exasperated with the schedule as well.
Since just a few days after my last surgery, September 30Th, I've managed to let this cancer thing be waaaay in the background. I have felt great, my energy level has been good, and my job is keeping me very, very busy, and occupied. I've almost forgotten about the cancer. However, these daily trips will likely be an ugly reminder of this ugly disease.
One other really good report here though; my genetic test did come back negative for the two DNA markers that have been found. Yeah! Now my sisters and daughter don't have to worry so much. However, the doctors were quick to point out that those are only two of potentially many markers that are still left to be discovered. I am going to remain an evangelist to the women in my family to check themselves and to have regular mammograms. There is a lot of cancer in our family and I want to make sure we are ALL survivors!